Matt Burton, five-eighth, should Burton move to centre, Bulldogs halves, Cameron Ciraldo, selections


Legendary playmaker Greg Alexander has admitted he’s “always had doubts” over whether Bulldogs star Matt Burton is best suited to five-eighth.

Burton has just kicked off his third season with the Bulldogs and a disappointing team performance in Round 1 has sparked a conversation around how the 23-year-old is best used.

The Dubbo product found a home in the centres at the Panthers. He won a premiership in that position and earned a spot in the Dally M Team of the Year too.

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But his desire to play five-eighth led him to the Bulldogs.

All of his 48 games for the club have been in the halves — 40 at five-eighth and eight at halfback — but he’s represented New South Wales twice at centre and has played once for the Kangaroos there too.

Matty Johns said on Sunday night that if he were coach Cameron Ciraldo he’d “be putting Burton to left centre” to “really stimulate his running game and really get him going because he is an incredible runner.”

Alexander, who played over 200 games in the halves, agrees with Johns and while dissecting Round 1 on the Fox League Podcast he said that Burton’s attributes fit the mould of a centre perfectly.

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“When Matt was centre at Penrith he was one of the best centres in the game and I’ve always had my doubts about him being as effective in the six jersey,” he said.

“That’s not just from looking at him on the weekend against the Eels it’s sampling his footy over the last couple of years.

“I’m still not convinced (that he’s a better five-eighth than centre). I don’t know if he talks enough and commands the ball enough to be a six or a genuine half that’s always in the game

“I think ‘Burto’ is a great hole-runner, he’s big tall and fast. I think centre suits him down to the ground.

“Maybe him and Stephen Crichton on either side and someone else in the six jersey. Let’s throw Toby Sexton in at seven and Drew Hutchison at six and see what they can do with ‘Burto’ in the centres.”

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The Bulldogs will have to reshuffle their backline for Round 2 after star winger Josh Addo-Carr suffered a shoulder injury. However the chances of Burton being involved in that reshuffle are slim to none — especially given he’s publicly declared he wants to continue playing five-eighth.

The Bulldogs have made some major recruitment moves over the last few years by luring Penrith premiership-winners in Burton, Crichton and Viliame Kikau to Belmore as well as Addo-Carr and elite hooker Reed Mahoney.

But the team is yet to live up to expectations.

Alexander believes “there won’t be many changes” after just one game but can’t see Ciraldo waiting too long before pulling the trigger.

“If they don’t click soon, there’s not that much of a honeymoon for the players because they’ve got options, they’ve got players that can play in a number of positions… I don’t think he’ll hang on for too long,” he said.


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